United States v. State of California, No. 33

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTONE
Citation80 L.Ed. 567,56 S.Ct. 421,297 U.S. 175
Decision Date03 February 1936
Docket NumberNo. 33
PartiesUNITED STATES v. STATE OF CALIFORNIA

297 U.S. 175
56 S.Ct. 421
80 L.Ed. 567
UNITED STATES

v.

STATE OF CALIFORNIA.

No. 33.
Argued Jan. 16, 17, 1936.
Decided Feb. 3, 1936.

Page 176

Messrs. Homer S. Cummings, Atty. Gen., and Golden W. Bell, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 176-177 intentionally omitted]

Page 178

Mr. Ralph Marron, of San Francisco, Cal., for the State of California.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 178-180 intentionally omitted]

Page 180

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit brought by the United States against the state of California in the District Court for Northern California to recover the statutory penalty of $100 for violation of the Federal Safety Appliance Act, § 2, Act of March 2, 1893, c. 196, 27 Stat. 531, 45 U.S.C. § 2 (45 U.S.C.A. § 2), and section 6 of the act, as amended April 1, 1896, 29 Stat. 85, 45 U.S.C. § 6 (45 U.S.C.A. § 6).1

The complaint alleges that California, in the operation of the state-owned State Belt Railroad, is a common carrier engaged in interstate transportation by railroad, and that it has violated the Safety Appliance Act by hauling over the road a car equipped with defective coupling apparatus. Upon the trial, without a jury, upon stipulated facts, the District Court gave judgment for the United States. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, 75 F.(2d) 41, on the ground that as exclusive jurisdiction of suits to which a state is a party is conferred upon this Court by section 233 of the Judicial Code, 36 Stat. 1156, 28 U.S.C. § 341 (28 U.S.C.A. § 341), the District Court was without

Page 181

jurisdiction of the cause. We granted certiorari, 296 U.S. 554, 56 S.Ct. 87, 80 L.Ed. 391, to review the case as one involving questions of public importance, upon a petition of the government which urged that the state is a common carrier by railroad, subject to the Safety Appliance Act, and, under its provisions, to suit in the District Court to recover penalties for violation of the act.

In an earlier suit, Sherman v. United States, 282 U.S. 25, 51 S.Ct. 41, 75 L.Ed. 143, brought against the Board of State Harbor Commissioners, which supervises operation of the State Belt Railroad, to recover penalties for violation of the act, this Court set aside the judgment of the District Court for the government because the state had not been made a party.

1. Whether a transportation agency is a common carrier depends not upon its corporate character or declared purposes, but upon what it does. United States v. Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, 249 U.S. 296, 304, 39 S.Ct. 283, 63 L.Ed. 613, 6 A.L.R. 527. The State Belt Railroad is owned and operated by the state, see Sherman v. United States, supra. It parallels the water front of San Francisco harbor and extends onto some forty-five state-owned wharves. It serves directly about one hundred and seventy-five industrial plants, has track connection with one interstate railroad, and, by wharf connections with freight car ferries, links that and three other interstate rail carriers with freight yards in San Francisco leased to them by the state. It receives and transports from the one to the other, by its own engines, all freight cars, loaded and empty, and the freight they contain, offered to it by railroads, steamship companies, and industrial plants. The larger part of this traffic has its origin or destination in states other than California. For the transportation service, it makes a flat charge per car. It issues no bills of lading and is not a party to through rates. It moves the cars on instructions contained in 'switch lists' made out by the delivering or receiving carrier, which pays the charge and absorbs it in its rate. The

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charge on cars not delivered to or received from another carrier is paid by the industry concerned.

The Belt Railroad is thus a terminal railroad for the industries and carriers with which it connects, and it serves as a link in the through transportation of interstate freight shipped to or from points in San Francisco over the connecting carriers. Its service is of a public character, for hire, and does not differ in any salient feature from that which this Court, in United States v. Brooklyn Eastern District Term nal, supra, 249 U.S. 296, 304, 305, 39 S.Ct. 283, 63 L.Ed. 613, 6 A.L.R. 527, held to be common carriage by rail in interstate commerce within the meaning of the Federal Hours of Service Act, 34 Stat. 1415, 45 U.S.C. § 61 (45 U.S.C.A. § 61).

The state insists that the facts that it maintains no freight station, issues no bills of lading, and is engaged only in moving cars for a flat rate instead of at a charge per hundred pounds of freight moved, distinguish the operation of its railroad from that of the Brooklyn Terminal. As the service involves transportation of the cars and their contents, the method of fixing the charge is unimportant. Belt Railway Co. of Chicago v. United States (C.C.A.) 168 F. 542, 544, 22 L.R.A.(N.S.) 582; see United States v. Union Stock Yard & Transit Co., 226 U.S. 286, 299, 300, 33 S.Ct. 83, 57 L.Ed. 226. And while maintenance of a freight station and the issue of bills of lading may be embraced in the service of a common carrier, and a part of interstate commerce, see United States v. Ferger, 250 U.S. 199, 39 S.Ct. 445, 63 L.Ed. 936, Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. Co. v. United States, 295 U.S. 193, 55 S.Ct. 748, 79 L.Ed. 1382, they are not indispensable adjuncts to either where the subject of transportation, here cars loaded and empty, may be effected without.

All the essential elements of interstate rail transportation are present in the service rendered by the State Belt Railroad. They are the receipt and transportation, for the public, for hire, of cars moving in interstate commerce. See United States v. Union Stock Yard & Transit Co., 226 U.S. 286, supra, 299, 33 S.Ct. 83, 57 L.Ed. 226; Union Stockyards Co. v. United

Page 183

States (C.C.A.) 169 F. 404; Belt Railway Co. of Chicago v. United States, supra. Its service, involving as it does the transportation of all carload freight moving in interstate commerce between the industries concerned and all railroad and steamship lines reaching the port, is of the same character, though wider in scope, as that held to be common carriage by rail in interstate commerce in the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal and the Union Stockyards Co. Cases. They abundantly support the conclusion that such is the service rendered by the state in the present case, a conclusion twice reached by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, see McCallum v. United States, 298 F. 373; Tilden v. United States, 21 F.(2d) 967.

2. The state urges that it is not subject to the Federal Safety Appliance Act. It is not denied that the omission charged would be a violation if by a privately-owned rail carrier in interstate commerce. But it is said that as the state is operating the railroad without profit, for the purpose of facilitating the commerce of the port, and is using the net proceeds of operation for harbor improvement, see Sherman v. United States, supra, Denning v. State, 123 Cal. 316, 55 P. 1000, it is engaged in performing a public function in its sovereign capacity and for that reason cannot constitutionally be subjected to the provisions of the federal act. In any case it is argued that the statute is not to be construed as applying to the state acting in that capacity.

Despite reliance upon the point both by the government and the state, we think it unimportant to say whether the state conducts its railroad in its 'sovereign' or in its 'private' capacity. That in operating its railroad it is acting within a power reserved to the states cannot be doubted. See Puget Sound Power & Light Co. v. City of Seattle, 291 U.S. 619, 624, 54 S.Ct. 542, 78 L.Ed. 1025; Green v. Frazier, 253 U.S. 233, 40 S.Ct. 499, 64 L.Ed. 878; Jones v. Portland, 245 U.S. 217, 38 S.Ct. 112, 62 L.Ed. 252, L.R.A.1918C, 765, Ann.Cas. 1918E, 660. The only question we need consider is whether the exercise of that power, in

Page 184

whatever capacity, must be in subordination to the power to...

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233 practice notes
  • Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, No. 87-1207
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1989
    ...passage suggests, however, this interpretive principle applies only to "the enacting sovereign." United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 186, 56 S.Ct. 421, 425, 80 L.Ed. 567 (1936). See also Jefferson County Pharmaceutical Assn., Inc. v. Abbott Laboratories, 460 U.S. 150, 161, ......
  • Welch v. Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation, No. 85-1716
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1987
    ...those statutes to apply to state-owned railroads. Id., at 188-189, 84 S.Ct., at 1210-1211, quoting United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 185, 56 S.Ct. 421, 424, 80 L.Ed. 567 (1936) (" 'No convincing reason is advanced why interstate commerce and persons and property concerned in i......
  • Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc v. Republic of Cuba, No. 73-1288
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 10, 1974
    ...233, 238 (1964); California v. Taylor, 353 U.S. 553, 564, 77 S.Ct. 1037, 1043, 1 L.Ed.2d 1034, 1041 (1957); United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 183, 56 S.Ct. 421, 423, 80 L.Ed. 567, 572 (1936). It is the position of the United States, stated in an Amicus brief filed by the Solicitor ......
  • National Ass'n of Regulatory Utility Com'rs v. F. C. C.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 5, 1976
    ...scheme is best suited for the purpose.' 46 F.C.C.2d at 763--64. See also 51 F.C.C.2d at 957--59. 75 United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 181, 56 S.Ct. 421, 80 L.Ed. 567 (1936); Lone Star Steel Co. v. McGee, 380 F.2d 640, 648 (5th Cir. But see Philadelphia Television Broadcasting v. F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
233 cases
  • Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, No. 87-1207
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1989
    ...As this passage suggests, however, this interpretive principle applies only to "the enacting sovereign." United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 186, 56 S.Ct. 421, 425, 80 L.Ed. 567 (1936). See also Jefferson County Pharmaceutical Assn., Inc. v. Abbott Laboratories, 460 U.S. 150, 161, n.......
  • Welch v. Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation, No. 85-1716
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1987
    ...those statutes to apply to state-owned railroads. Id., at 188-189, 84 S.Ct., at 1210-1211, quoting United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 185, 56 S.Ct. 421, 424, 80 L.Ed. 567 (1936) (" 'No convincing reason is advanced why interstate commerce and persons and property concerned in it sho......
  • Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc v. Republic of Cuba, No. 73-1288
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 10, 1974
    ...233, 238 (1964); California v. Taylor, 353 U.S. 553, 564, 77 S.Ct. 1037, 1043, 1 L.Ed.2d 1034, 1041 (1957); United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 183, 56 S.Ct. 421, 423, 80 L.Ed. 567, 572 (1936). It is the position of the United States, stated in an Amicus brief filed by the Solicitor ......
  • National Ass'n of Regulatory Utility Com'rs v. F. C. C.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 5, 1976
    ...scheme is best suited for the purpose.' 46 F.C.C.2d at 763--64. See also 51 F.C.C.2d at 957--59. 75 United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175, 181, 56 S.Ct. 421, 80 L.Ed. 567 (1936); Lone Star Steel Co. v. McGee, 380 F.2d 640, 648 (5th Cir. But see Philadelphia Television Broadcasting v. F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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